Origin of the Startup Idea
Joshua Sear, the founder of Empower, originally came up with the idea for Empower after meeting Uber and Lyft drivers working 12-hour days seven days a week to support their families but still barely scraping by financially.
When Uber and Lyft first started their push toward a ridesharing gig economy, there’s no doubt this was the last thing they had in mind. The original vision was to provide a balanced gig economy that supplied passengers with affordable rides and paid drivers enough to be a sustainable source of income long-term. Unfortunately, the goal of growing as quickly as possible, pleasing shareholders, and decentralizing the taxi industry eventually led to this unsatisfactory outcome.
Joshua saw this problem and jumped at the opportunity to make ridesharing what it was intended to be from the beginning – this marked the beginning of his startup company, Empower.
Since he used Uber and Lyft quite a bit in his day-to-day life, Joshua started chatting with drivers during his rides and learned just how unheard and under-appreciated they felt. This was when he realized that if he could flip the Lyft and Uber business model on its head by making the driver the customer, it would be possible to create a software services company that improves everyone’s experience on the road.
Improvements for Drivers
Empower is built to transform the ridesharing industry and completely flip it on its head with a variety of significant improvements for drivers.
In the past, passengers were the primary customer of ridesharing, and the driver was the one who simply provided the service for fees and rates set by the ridesharing provider company. With Empower, however, the driver is now the customer.
This means drivers now have the ability to:
- Set their own rates and get paid what they deserve
- Get 100% of the fare and finally compete with companies like Uber and Lyft
- Receive better treatment, get fair compensation, and feel valued every single day
Empower was started to empower drivers to be all they can be.
By allowing them to earn full fares, set their rates, and run their ridesharing gig as a true free-market business, Empower is making ridesharing a joy for drivers and passengers alike.
Improvements for Riders & Passengers
Since Empower focuses on making significant improvements for drivers in the ridesharing economy, these improvements directly carry over the experience riders and passengers have with their service.
Since each driver can set their rates and receive 100% of the fare, passengers can feel better knowing they are adequately compensated for their efforts. Furthermore, with each independent operator relying on their customer service to attract a loyal base of riders who want to book them again and again, drivers have a big incentive to ensure the service they provide is top-notch.
All in all, the improvements to ridesharing that Empower is pioneering are a win-win for everyone involved. Drivers get the pay and appreciation they deserve, and passengers get unmatched customer service and the quality transportation they’re looking for.
Development of Startup
Joshua always had a strong innate desire for building and growing something as a part of a strong team – naturally, this led him to entrepreneurship and developing Empower into the company it is today.
From the beginning, developing Empower into a solid company got a rocky and challenging start. They launched their first market in the Winston-Salem area just 10 days before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down everything in its wake, requiring them to develop a strong sense of purpose, perseverance, and grit to get the business off the ground.
Eventually, Joshua and his team could see momentum on the horizon, and they started getting more drivers into their ecosystem. Since drivers from Uber and Lyft were their primary target customers, they focused on promoting Empower to that specific type of individual. If someone was already working as a rideshare driver full-time (or nearly full-time), then Empower wanted them to join their ecosystem as quickly as possible.
Empower's growth has aided by incentivized referrals. When someone refers other riders or drivers to Empower, they receive ride credit as a reward. To further incentivize sharing and spreading the word about their startup, drivers can also receive discounted subscriptions when they referred new riders or drivers.
Their second marketing strategy was to talk to drivers and sell their startup by showing them the benefits. When drivers have been burned by large ridesharing companies like Lyft and Uber in the past, they want a sustainable alternative solution. Empower gives them just that by showing them that they are the primary customers of Empower, and they have complete control over how much they charge and can claim all of their earnings for themselves.
In addition to these marketing efforts, Joshua got up and talked to real people to acquire his first 100 customers. To do this, he went to the airport and spoke with ridesharing drivers he saw. After the first day, most of the drivers he spoke with at the airport had already signed up with Empower due to the significant benefits they would be able to take advantage of.
Using these simple strategies, Joshua grew Empower into a company well on its way to completely transforming ridesharing, making it more sustainable and enjoyable for everyone.
What’s Next for the Startup
Empower has several ways they plan to expand and grow their company over the coming years. We will discuss the future improvements, enhancements, and innovations next in line.
Future Improvements, Enhancements, and Innovations
Since Joshua started Empower, he had a monthly exercise where he steps back and identifies two or three things that need to be done to move the company forward. This is the foundation of all future decisions within Empower and ensures everything remains on task and grounded.
The company's current trajectory is to continue to grow and scale, both by increasing its market share within existing markets and branching out into new markets.
They’ve already launched in New York and Washington DC, where they’re looking for additional growth opportunities and continue to grow in the North Carolina market.
Empower is working on improving its products and services for everyone and offering additional subscription options for its customers to generate the revenue they need to thrive as a startup.
Their vision for ridesharing is bold but something is already beginning to make an impact. Joshua and his team will continue making improvements, enhancements, and fostering innovation within their industry.
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